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Breathing exercises to calm the mind and relax the body

Abdominal Breathing

Belly Breathing

I often use this in teaching right at the start to help everyone to relax down, release tension and focus the mind. You breathe in a pattern of 4-2-6. Give it a go – great to do at the end of a busy, stressful day or whenever you just need a moment to reconnect to life.

  • Sit in a comfortable seat or lie in relaxation position

  • Place 1 hand on your belly and 1 hand on your chest

  • Breathe normally and noticed the movement of your hands. What moves the most? Does the hand on your belly move as much as the hand on your chest?

  • Start to deepen the breath by breathing smoothly and fully into the hand on the belly. Don’t force anything, just let the belly rise into your hand softly. Do this for a count of 4

  • Hold for a count of 2

  • Exhale for a count of 6 allowing your belly to gently fall away from your hand.

Repeat this as many times as you need encouraging your body to relax and your mind to calm. Let the warmth of your hands represent a caring, friendly support. You can repeat “Inhale belly rises, exhale belly falls.”

Pilates Breathing

Fogging the Mirror

You can do this seated, in relaxation position or moving in any form!

  • Take a full Inhale through the nose

  • Exhale slowly with the jaw relaxed and mouth wide open

  • Make a sound as if you were fogging up a mirror

  • Close your mouth then inhale again

  • Repeat 10 times

The focus in fogging the mirror is on the exhale, which helps minimise tension. The relaxed jaw also helps let go of tension and helps to get the abdominals to engage properly.

Imagery for Breathing

Glass of Water

Imagine your torso was a drinking glass. Start with the glass empty and abdominals relaxed. Inhale slowly through your nose and fill the glass with water from the bottom to the top. Exhale slowly emptying the class from top to the bottom. This imagery focuses on relaxing the abdominals for better diaphragm movement and the initial action of the pelvic floor and focuses the attention on your abdominals rather than breathing using your shoulders and neck, which is what we tend to do when we shallow breathe. If you think you shallow breathe then give belly breathing a go (see above!).

I hope you find these helpful. Will you let me know if you try any of them?


P.S. Have you read my Pilates for Breathing blog post? There are some great breathing tips in there that I wrote with you in mind!

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